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Tania Verstak collection
The Tania Verstak collection documents Tania's experience as a participant and eventual winner both of the 1961 Miss Australia Quest and the 1962 Miss International contest. Trophies are a particular strength of this collection, representing the then unprecedented level of success achieved by Tania Verstak as the first naturalised Australian to win the Miss Australia Quest, and as an Australian winner of a high profile overseas beauty contest. Also in this collection are two evening gowns worn by Tania during competition for the Miss Australia Quest, and a dress worn for 'national costume' judging at the 1962 International Beauty Congress held in Long Beach, California. This collection is supported by file copies of photographs, newspaper clippings and ephemera, sourced from Tania Verstak's personal archive, that document her progression through the state and national stages of the Miss Australia Quest, her participation at the International Beauty Congress, and her world tour as Miss Australia 1961.
The Miss Australia Quest (from 1992 known as the Miss Australia Awards) ran continuously from 1953 to 2000 and was arguably the longest running, most popular and most successful charitable enterprise in Australia's history. The first documented nationwide contest to identify Australia's ideal woman was held in 1907, however the first official use of the title 'Miss Australia' is more generally thought to have been used in relation to 'Miss Australia 1926' - Beryl Mills from Western Australia. Further contests were held in 1927, 1937, and from 1945 until 1950. It was in 1953 when Bernard Dowd (manufacturer of Hickory Lingerie in Australia) and his company Dowd Associates took over running of the competition that the Quest became a registered business enterprise, and the 'search for Miss Australia' gained momentum. From 1954 until 2000 the Quest ran primarily as a fundraising event for the Australian Cerebral Palsy Association (ACPA), and is estimated to have raised $90 million for people with cerebral palsy.
Over its lifetime, the Quest reflected many of the changes that took place in Australian society and culture: the changing role and perceptions of women; changing perceptions of people with disabilities; the influence of migrants and 'New Australians'; and the presentation of Australia and Australians overseas.
Copyright National Museum of Australia
Physical access to the collection by appointment only